Eastern King Snake Lampropeltis getula getula

Family: Colubridae - Harmless Egg-Laying Snakes

Typical Adult Size: 36 to 48 inches

Eye Pupil: round

Dorsal Scales: smooth

Anal Scale: single

SC Range Map

Additional Images

The Eastern Kingsnake is South Carolina's version of the speices Lampropeltis getula. The species is often called the Common Kingsnake, for it is the species usually referenced by the term "Kingsnake." These snakes are among our largest species. Adults usually range from 36 to 60 inches in length. They are powerful constrictors. The "kingsnake" name refers to the fact that other snakes, including venomous species, are a principal food source. Kingsnakes are also immune or resistant to the venom of our Pitviper snakes. Eastern Kings also eat rodents, lizards, birds and eggs, and turtle eggs.

Kingsnakes have smooth dorsal scales and a shiny appearance. Their heads are small and no neck is discernable.

The typical Eastern Kingsnake is black with thin yellow to pale bands on its back and sides, forming a chainlike pattern. "Chain" Kingsnake is another popular name for the Eastern Kingsnake. The belly has scales partially colored in the same color as its dorsal bands.

In some localities, specimens can be found with atypical color and patterning. The background color may be more like dark chocolate in some specimens and the bands may be almost white. The width of the bands may be greater. Sometimes the bands may be so wide that the unusual specimen appears to have dark blotches on a pale background.

The young look the same as the adults.

The Eastern Kingsnake may be found in most any habitat within its range. However, it seems to have a special fondness for wetland areas.

The Common Kingsnake species is found in the southern and southwestern United States, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The species physique does not vary across the large range; however, the patterning and coloration does vary substantially. The Eastern Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula getula)is found in the middle to south atlantic states. The Outer Banks Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula sticticeps) is found only in the Outer Banks area of North Carolina. The Florida Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula floridana), as its name implies, is found in Florida, intergrading with the Eastern Kingsnake. The Speckled Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula holbrooki) is found in the middle gulf states north to Iowa and Illinois. The Black Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula nigra) is found Tennessee and Kentucky and parts of neighboring states. The Desert Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula splendida) is found from Kansas to Texas to New Mexico and Mexico. The Mexican Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula nigritus) is found in southeast Arizona and Mexico. California Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula californiae) is found from Arizona and Utah to California and Oregon.

Additional Images:
Eastern King Snake, Lampropeltis getula getula
adult, belly
neonate, approx. 11 inches
adult specimen (Berkeley Co., SC)
wide-banded specimen (Berkeley Co., SC)
blotched specimen (approx. 48 inches, Berkeley Co., SC)
kingsnake raiding egg nest of Eastern Box Turtle
shed skin
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June 23, 2010
Contact: South Carolina Reptiles and Amphibians